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Publication Date

Spring 2012

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Chemical and Materials Engineering


Melanie McNeil


biocompatible, biodegradable, drug delivery, organocatalyst, star polymer, synthesis

Subject Areas

Chemical engineering


Polymeric delivery vehicles of increasing complexity and design have been envisioned for use in medical applications that involve in vivo delivery of exogenous material. Nanogel star polymers are monodispersed molecules that possess a high number of end groups and tunability. Therefore, customizable star polymers are potential candidates for biomedical applications. This thesis describes the first use of organocatalytic ring-opening polymerization (ROP) as a general route by which to synthesize nanogel star polymers that have a controlled size, biodegradability, polyvalency, dense poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) surface coverage, and hydrophobic core. Two synthetic methods were used to determine the most effective means of synthesizing the star polymers. These polymers underwent characteration experiments with a focus on functionality, uptake and release of hydrophobic material under physiological conditions, and particle size. Star polymers have achieved targeted hydrodynamic radius of 10 nm with polydispersity of 1.2. By utilizing degradable star polymers as a carrier molecule, other useful agents, such as pharmaceutical drugs or probes, can be embedded into the star polymer via self-assembled occlusion complex formation. The amount of material that were shown to be embedded into these polymers were between 20 and 40 Nile Red particles per star polymer particle. This ability, in conjunction with peptide peripheral functionality, provided star polymers with a means for targeting specific sites and allowed these particles future usage as nanoscale delivery vehicles.